The centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution was marked in various ways around the globe. For example, as noted by RFE/RL, the Russian Communist Party on November 7 staged a celebratory march in Moscow, while in the Baltic states, the date was not marked at all. In Ukraine, the date is solemn and sorrowful, as it recalls more than seven decades of Communist Party rule, oppression, the Gulag and murder on an enormous scale. The number of Ukrainian victims of Soviet repression cannot be fully known; millions died in the Holodomor of 1932-1933.
In The Washington Post, columnist Marc A. Thiessen wrote: “The death toll of communism, cited in ‘The Black Book of Communism,’ is simply staggering: In the USSR, nearly 20 million dead; China, 65 million; Vietnam, 1 million; Cambodia, 2 million; Eastern Europe, 1 million; Africa, 1.7 million; Afghanistan, 1.5 million; North Korea: 2 million (and counting). In all, Communist regimes killed some 100 million people – roughly four times the number killed by the Nazis – making communism the most murderous ideology in human history.”
Though not widely reported, President Donald Trump declared November 7 the National Day for Victims of Communism. “The Bolshevik Revolution gave rise to the Soviet Union and its dark decades of oppressive communism, a political philosophy incompatible with liberty, prosperity, and the dignity of human life,” his proclamation said. “Today, we remember those who have died and all who continue to suffer under communism. In their memory and in honor of the indomitable spirit of those who have fought courageously to spread freedom and opportunity around the world, our Nation reaffirms its steadfast resolve to shine the light of liberty for all who yearn for a brighter, freer future.” The Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s Executive Director Marion Smith welcomed the proclamation, pointing out: “America has never before had a day dedicated to recognizing the victims of communism.”
On November 8, Reps. Marcy Kaptur, Dan Lipinski, Dennis Ross and Chris Smith announced the formation of the Victims of Communism Caucus for the 115th Congress (2017-2019). A release from their offices described the caucus as “a bipartisan group… dedicated to raising awareness of how communism victimized and enslaved more than 100 million people in the past and how its tyranny in the five existing Communist countries – China, Cuba, Laos, North Korea and Vietnam – and its legacy in the post-Soviet sphere shapes international relations today.” These members of Congress explained that the caucus will focus on several issues in the upcoming congressional session, including “Russian expansionism in Ukraine.” Rep. Smith added that there has “never been full accountability for the crimes committed by past Communist regimes, including planned famines, deportations and ethnic cleansing.” His colleague Rep. Lipinski said, “It is our duty to tell these stories, the truth about communism, and preserve this history for all generations.”
These stories surely do need to be told. That’s because, as Rep. Lipinski noted, about one-third of the U.S. population has lived in a world without the USSR, and, as a poll conducted by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation revealed: “the majority of America’s largest generation would prefer to live in a socialist or communist society than in a free enterprise system… This is even more disconcerting when coupled with the fact that, despite Millennials’ enthusiasm for socialism and communism, they do not, in fact, know what those terms mean.”
And, there are still those who try to gloss over, or even cover-up, the crimes of Communists, or argue that these were “mistakes” committed in pursuit of an admirable goal. Our readers will recall that The New York Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty once said, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.”
Yes, indeed, the victims of communism must be remembered, their stories told, and the lessons therein learned.